As a river flows incessantly to the sea, so with the regulated practice
An initiation lecture in San Diego in June 1972
"The Supreme Personality of Godhead said, 'Now hear, O son of Prtha, how by practicing yoga in full consciousness of Me, with your mind attached to Me, you can know Me in full, free from doubt."' (Bhagavad-gita 7.1)
The yoga system Krsna mentions here is very simple and sublime. You have to simply engage your mind in thinking only of Krsna, of the form of Krsna. And how should you think of Him? With attachment (asakti). If you love somebody, you always want to see him; your attachment is so strong that if you don't see him you become restless. Different people have different attachments, but attachment is always there. Somebody may be attached to a dog, and somebody may be attached to God. But attachment is there.
Srila Rupa Gosvami has explained very simply how we should be attached to God. He says, "My dear Lord, as a young man awakens his attachment immediately upon seeing a young girl, or as a young girl becomes attracted as soon as she sees a young boy, let me become attached to You." This kind of attachment is natural. Nobody has to go to the university to learn it.
Simply by seeing a young girl, a young boy thinks, "Oh, here is a nice, beautiful girl." And a young girl thinks, "Oh, here is a nice, beautiful boy." Similarly, we should think, "Oh, here is Krsna, here are topics about Krsna, here is Krsna's temple."
Another example is that our attachment should flow toward Krsna like the current of a river. A river automatically flows down to the sea. Just as the river is flowing toward the sea spontaneously, without any artificial attempt, our love should spontaneously flow toward Krsna, or God. That is the perfection of yoga.
Yoga means "connection." In the beginning we may revive our connection with Krsna artificially, but when that connection comes spontaneously, without any check, just like the river water going down incessantly to the sea, then we will be perfect in yoga. Nobody can check the flowing river. Why does the river go to the sea? It is simply natural; there is no artificial reason why it is going there. Similarly, when our love for Krsna will glide down like that, without any personal motive, we will have achieved perfection in yoga.
Spontaneous love for God does not depend on any external cause. Its only cause is the love itself. Therefore it is called ahaituki. Ahaituki means "without any cause or motive." Generally people go to a temple or church with a personal motive to fulfill. For example, the Christians go to church and pray, "God, give us our daily bread." The motive is the desire for bread. But when you go to church without any motive except to glorify God, that is real love. Of course, it is also nice to think, "God will give me bread; therefore let me go to church." But this motivated faith may be lost. If we approach God for some material benefit, our faith in Him may break at any time. So that is not the platform of real love of God. Real love is without personal motivation.
And this love is also apratihata, "unable to be checked." Real love for God cannot be checked by any material condition. Nobody should say, "Because I am a poor man I have to work very hard, so I cannot love God now." People often talk like that: "I shall wait. When I get millions of dollars in my bank account I shall take to Krsna consciousness. Now let me earn money." This is not bhakti. This is not attachment to Krsna.
Here Krsna says we should practice yoga under His protection (mad-asrayah). This means we must take shelter of Krsna or His representative and try to practice that yoga by which we will attain spontaneous love for Krsna. Now we have no attachment for Krsna. So, to awaken that attachment there are some regulative principles we must follow. For instance, we say, "No illicit sex." The Vedic system teaches that one must get married and live according to religious principles. Then the husband and the wife can satisfy their desire for sex by begetting good children. There is no prohibition against sex; it is allowed. But not illicit sex. Engaging in illicit sex means you increase your attachment for sex, not for Krsna. Therefore it is forbidden.
Also, no meat-eating. Meat- or fish- or egg-eating—any nonvegetarian diet—is simply an attachment of the tongue. Nobody dies from not eating meat. That's a fact. When we were babies we depended on milk, either our mother's breast-milk or cows' milk. Therefore the cow is also our mother. Just as we drink breast-milk from our mother, we drink milk from mother cow. You must not kill your mother; that is a great sin. Therefore meat-eating is prohibited. But people have become so sinful that they do not consider, "When I was young this cow supplied her blood in the form of milk to feed me, to keep me alive. But now that lam grown up, I am so ungrateful that I am going to kill her and eat her flesh." This is the advancement of modern education: that people have learned how to kill their mother.
In every religion, killing is prohibited or very much restricted. In the Christian religion you have the commandment, "Thou shalt not kill." But nearly everyone is violating this commandment. Then where is your claim to being a Christian? If you violate the injunction given by Lord Jesus Christ, how can you claim to be a Christian? That is our question. And even if one is not a Christian, killing is most sinful and should be avoided as far as possible.
Your first business in life is to increase your spontaneous attachment for God. That is the primary business of human life, because only in the human form of life can you do that. And as soon as you increase your attachment for Krsna, your life is successful. "Successful" means that you won't have to accept any more material bodies. You will get a spiritual body and go to Krsna—back home, back to Godhead. Therefore, if you increase your attachment for Krsna, the benefit is that you make a solution to all the problems of your life.
To increase your attachment for Krsna, in the beginning you have to follow some regulative principles, some restrictions. For instance, a doctor will prescribe a treatment: "Don't eat this. Don't do this." And he will also say, "Do this." Similarly, in Krsna consciousness there are so many do's and don't's. We have to accept the do's and avoid the don't's (anukulyasya sankalpah pratikulyasya varjanam). This is how to cultivate Krsna consciousness favorably. We have to accept only those things favorable for awakening our attachment for Krsna, and reject everything else. So, if illicit sex is unfavorable for your advancement in Krsna consciousness, you must reject it. You cannot argue. That will not help you. Similarly, you must reject intoxication, meat-eating, and gambling. Illicit sex, meat-eating, intoxication, and gambling-these are the four pillars of sinful life. The roof of sinful life is held up by these four pillars. In the beginning of Krsna consciousness, when you are actually going to take Krsna consciousness seriously, you must give up these four pillars of sinful life.
Today some souls will be initiated. This means that they are going to take up Krsna consciousness very seriously. So, the first business of one who is serious to take up Krsna consciousness is to break these four pillars of sinful life. Then there will be no chance of sin. As Krsna says in the Bhagavad-gita [7.28],
yesam tv anta-gatam papam
"One who has given up sinful activity and is simply engaging in pious activity—such a person is unbewildered and attains firm faith in Krsna consciousness."
What are pious activities? First is yajna, performing some sacrifice. For example, today we are holding a fire sacrifice. Then another pious activity is giving charity for spreading Krsna's propaganda. The Krsna consciousness movement is making propaganda, so we require money. Money is Krsna's energy. Everyone is holding Krsna's money, and the sooner they spare some of that money for the sake of Krsna, the better off they'll be. Suppose I am holding your money illegally. If I give it back to you, I become released from my criminal activities. Or suppose I have stolen something from your pocket and then I feel the pain of my conscience: "Oh, this stealing is not good." So, as soon as I return it to you, the thing is settled. But if I hold on to it, I am a criminal and will be punished. Similarly, all those persons who are holding Krsna's money, not returning it to Krsna, are criminals. And they will be punished.
How will they be punished? That we have seen. Recently there was a war between Pakistan and India. So, according to one's capacity, everyone in India had to contribute money to the war effort. All the rich men had to contribute fifty lakhs of rupees [about half a million dollars]. Many millions of rupees were collected and used to produce gunpowder—Svaha!*
So, if you don't execute this svaha, you will have to execute that svaha. The Vietnam War is going on—Svaha! So many young men—Svaha! So much money-Svaha! Therefore, better learn how to make a svaha for Krsna. Otherwise you will have to make a svaha for maya [illusion].
*Svaha is a Sanskrit word spoken by the chief priest in a Vedic sacrifice as he pours clarified butter in the sacred fire, causing the fire to blaze up.
So, one must perform sacrifice and give in charity for Krsna. Then there is tapasya. Tapasya means voluntarily accepting all kinds of restrictive principles. Now we are addicted to all kinds of nonsense, but unless you stop all nonsensical activities, you cannot understand Krsna consciousness. If you want to be serious, you must give them up.
In this way we have to increase our attachment for Krsna. And if we increase our attachment for Krsna, we will reach the perfection of yoga. Krsna consciousness is the topmost yoga system. As Krsna states in the Bhagavad-gita [6.47], Yoginam api sarvesam mad-gatenantar-atmana . . . sa me yuktatamo matah: "Of all yogis, one who is always thinking of Me is the best." You can always think of someone if you are attached to him. Otherwise, you cannot. It's not possible. If you love somebody, you will always see his picture, his form, in your mind. Always. As it is said in the Vedic literature, Brahma-samhita, premanjana-cchurita-bhakti-vilocanena santah sadaiva hrdayesu vilokayanti. We have to purify our eyes so we can see God within, and that purification is possible when we apply the ointment of love of God to our eyes daily. A doctor may prescribe that we apply some ointment to improve our eyesight. Similarly, you will see God when your vision is clarified by premanjana, the ointment of love of God.
So, you must practice how to love Krsna. First you have to rise early in the morning. You don't like to, but you think, "I will rise early to satisfy Krsna." This is the beginning. Then, "I have to chant sixteen rounds of the Hare Krsna mantra on my beads." You may be lazy, you may not want to do it, but if you want to love Krsna you must do it. You must do it. In the beginning you have to learn how to love Krsna, but when you actually come to the state of love of God there is no question of "have to." You will spontaneously follow the regulative principles, because love is there.
Learning to love Krsna is something like developing love in our ordinary affairs. If I love a girl, I will give her a flower or other present. This is one of the six exchanges of love: you have to give a gift to your beloved. You also have to accept gifts from him (dadati, pratigrhnati). Then guhyam akhyati prcchati: opening one's mind to the beloved. Guhyam means "very confidential things," and akhyati means "disclosing." You must disclose you innermost thoughts to your beloved, and he'll disclose his innermost thoughts to you. Then bhunkte bhojayate caiva—giving the lover something to eat and accepting food from him. These are the six ways of increasing love. If you act in these ways with Krsna, you will develop love for Him.
Now we are taking so many things from Krsna. Krsna is giving us everything; all our necessities are being supplied by Him (eko bahunam yo vidadhati kaman). It is not possible to manufacture fruits, flowers, and grains in a factory. Krsna is giving them to us. So, we are living at the cost of Krsna, and if after cooking the grains we do not offer them to Krsna, is that very gentlemanly?
In the Krsna consciousness movement we cook foodstuffs and then offer them to Krsna. What is wrong with this? The rascals say, "These Krsna conscious people are heathens because they offer food to some stone." Just see! These rascals are less intelligent. They do not know that God eats. As Krsna says in the Bhagavad-gita [9.26],
patram puspam phalam toyam
"When My devotee offers Me something within the categories of vegetables, grains, fruits, and water or milk, I eat it, because he has brought it with devotion and love." The devotee thinks, "Krsna, You have given us so many nice foodstuffs, and I have cooked them. You please partake of the preparations first." This is love.
Suppose your father has given you many things, and you feel obliged to him. So when you cook something you will give it to him first, saying, "My dear father, I have cooked this. It is very nice, so please you eat it first." He will answer, "Oh, it is very nice? All right, give some to me." He will be so pleased with you. Actually, what you cook is already your father's property, so you cannot really give anything to him. Similarly, you don't actually have anything to offer to Krsna. But if you become a little intelligent, you will offer Him back what already belongs to Him and in this way develop your love for Him. If you remain a rascal, your human life is spoiled, but if you become a little intelligent, your life is successful.
God is giving us our daily bread, so why not offer it to Him first? That is intelligence. And rascaldom is to think, "God is giving me bread, so I shall eat it. That's all. I am meant only for eating." And why not for offering? We should feel gratitude toward God: "God has given me this bread, so let me offer it to Him first. Then I may eat." What is wrong with this idea? What is the loss? But the lowest of mankind do not even know that because God has given them something to eat, they should first offer it to Him before eating. And when you offer something to Krsna, to God, He will eat it but then leave everything for you as prasadam. This is God's power.
So, bhakti-yoga, or Krsna consciousness, is the process that will increase your attachment for Krsna. We do not say, "Christians are bad, Hindus are good." No, we don't say that. We simply say, "Now in this human form of life, learn how to love God. For so long you have loved dog, now try to love God." That is our propaganda. We don't criticize anyone; we simply want to see whether he has developed his love for God. That's all. You can do it as a Christian, as a Hindu, or as a Mohammedan. We don't care. But we want to see whether you are actually a lover of God. If you are not, then we tell you, "Please try to love God in this way." What way is that? By sravanam kirtanam visnoh—simply hearing about Krsna and chanting about Krsna. Is that very difficult? If you have not yet learned how to love God, take up this process. If you simply hear about Krsna in this temple, without doing anything else, your life will become perfect.
Thank you very much.
We welcome your letters.
Some of the statements we found in your October BACK TO GODHEAD seem very familiar to us. Religions are much the same, it appears. The same claims seem to run through all of them: "Believe and obey, and good things will come to you. Don't ask for proof, but accept religion on faith, for this is the only requirement of God."
So we are told, but we have often been told many things that smacked more of imagination than reality. We'll continue to maintain that what is known can be known, and it must be shown before we are under any obligation to accept it. "We" are the Oklahoma chapter of American atheists.
Clinton L. Wiles
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
OUR REPLY: Yes, there are common threads running through all the world's great religions, because all religions are meant to help us develop knowledge of God, an understanding of our relationship to Him, and ultimately love for Him. The Srimad-Bhagavatam (1.2.6), one of our scriptures, says that any religion by which men can attain loving service unto the Supreme Personality of Godhead is to be considered genuine.
So in many religions you will find people who understand, as we do, that God is the omnipotent and omniscient Creator, and that He shows Himself to those who serve Him with faith and love. In the Bhagavad-gita (10.10), Lord Krsna declares, "To those who are constantly devoted to serving Me with love, I give the understanding by which they can come to Me."
God does not show Himself to atheists. To fulfill their desire He remains obligingly invisible, generously providing them with the knowledge of how to deny Him. This is the Supreme Lord's compassion. Even when you deny Him, He reciprocates with you.
But although the Supreme Lord does not try to disturb your atheism, sometimes His servants do—because it is, in fact, useless and impossible to deny God, who is the Absolute Truth. As soon as you adamantly state, "There is no Absolute Truth," you have asserted that your statement is itself absolutely true. Therefore, either in affirming or in denying the Absolute Truth, you prove that He exists.
It is also interesting to note that because you are a dedicated atheist, you are drawn to carefully read BACK TO GODHEAD magazine—a publication completely devoted to God—just so that you can doubt and attempt to refute its contents. This goes to show that not only the faithful and knowledgeable but even the ardent atheists are fully absorbed in thoughts of God. It is too bad that your thoughts are so negative, but, again, because God is compassionate, even these negative thoughts will ultimately have a beneficial effect on your life.
A Place Among God's Friends
A personal account of spiritual awakening
by Mandalesvara dasa
Continuing a special series of articles commemorating the five-hundredth anniversary of Lord Caitanya's appearance in Mayapur, West Bengal. By His life and teachings, He inaugurated the Hare Krsna movement.
The picture at right portrays a scene from the life of Lord Caitanya. Here He enjoys a reunion with some of His dear friends. He was at this time living in the coastal city of Puri on the Bay of Bengal in the state of Orissa, and His quarters were near the compound of the famous temple of Jagannatha. The places where He and His dear friends met together and discussed the nectarean topics of love of God are still there, and anyone can visit them. I did. The intimate associates of the Lord and their transcendental pastimes with Him are eternal reality, and anyone can read about them. I do. And I accept them. I have for fourteen years.
But do I understand them? Are my religious beliefs just that—beliefs? Over the years I have often, during a religious or philosophical discussion, had to point out when a person's beliefs were more lip service than, shall we say, realization. And likewise, I apply the same critical scrutiny within my own heart.
So, it is a simply stated truth: The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Lord Caitanya, appears within this material world accompanied by His eternal associates. Yet it was to understand this truth more fully that several years ago I paid my first visit to the holy places connected with Lord Caitanya's pastimes on earth.
A series of minor miracles, or so they seemed at the time, somehow brought me during the spring of 1977 far from the place of my birth to the place of Lord Caitanya's birth in the rural farming district of Nadia, West Bengal, to the village of Mayapur, about ninety miles up the Ganges from Calcutta. Now, except for a two-day visit to the Mexican border town of Piedras Negras back in '69, I had never even been outside the United States, yet here I was in India! Eight thousand miles from the place where I had taken birth, gone to school, made friends, gotten married. And my first taste of India was Calcutta.
Oh, Calcutta! The plunge was a shock to my system, like an icy bath for my ethnocentric self. For me the shock was not so much the language barrier, or driving on the left, or even the poverty. Was it then the irritating and inescapable pushing, shoving, and jockeying—in the taxi lines, in the ticket queues, at the train platform, on the train seat? Certainly that helped. And what about the exotic foreignness of it all, which hung over Calcutta like smoke over a sacked city and which entered the nostrils, alerting the brain even of one with no eyes to see or ears to hear: "This is Calcutta. India." And the smell of the air, that mixture of smoke from the cow-dung fires, of dust, of cooking spices, and of warm, perspiring bodies, also helped to submerge me in a cultural malaise, confining me to the uneasy comfort of "the American tourist." But especially unsettling were the eyes, thousands of brown, restless eyes—seeing me, the Western misfit, the fair-skinned rich man, the sahib. And because I was shaven-headed and wore the dress of a religious Indian gentleman, I provided a touch of mild excitement, generating transcultural double takes wherever I went.
But Calcutta, although one of the world's largest cities, was for me just a whistle stop. I was bound for Mayapur, ninety miles inland, up the Ganges into the tropical paradise that, five hundred years ago, had hosted the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Lord Caitanya, and His intimate associates. As I left behind the squalor and faded glory of Calcutta and drifted into the tropical splendor of rural West Bengal, I felt more at ease. Oh, there were still the same piercing brown eyes. This was, after all, Bengal, and Bengali eyes, I later learned, were the brightest, most piercing, and most restless in all of India. But I was more comfortable, nonetheless, just to see everywhere, as the train rocked and drifted quickly back into the past, a way of life that was timeless and that was obviously far more in touch with the necessities of life and with the purpose of life than I had ever seen before.
Of course, my real business in India was not to savor the beauty of West Bengal's fields, jungles, and villages, breathing the fresh country air. And it certainly wasn't to gawk on the streets of Calcutta. My real purpose was to visit the holy places of Lord Caitanya's pastimes and to deepen my understanding of the Supreme Lord and His intimate associates. And here in these few pages my purpose is to share that understanding with you. Yet even as I write these words I am reminded that, for some of my readers, the new ideas here will threaten rather than excite, transcultural intercourse being for them something awkward and sterile rather than spontaneous and enriching.
Yet although it may not be possible for one person to fully understand how another feels, I think I can really sympathize with the culturally cloistered mind recoiling at the harshness and foreignness of the unfamiliar. After all, I had my unsettling encounter with Calcutta and an unfamiliar people. My preconception of India and her people was set, preconceived—wrong. Suddenly I was forced to acknowledge that this, and not my preconception, was India. And so it is with any truth, absolute truth included. To reject an idea as wrong simply because it is unfamiliar or doesn't fit in with our preconception is ludicrous. There was, after all, a time for all of us when the entire world was unfamiliar.
So, taking the unfamiliar (and my subsequent culture shock) in stride, I stepped down from the train at Navadvipa and proceeded toward Mayapur and the places where Lord Caitanya and His intimate associates had enjoyed their transcendental pastimes together.
With all the devotion I could muster, I visited one sacred site after another: the birthplace, where Lord Caitanya had displayed the adorable pastimes and miracles of His infancy, all under the watchful care of His mother, Srimati Sacidevi, and His father, Jagannatha Misra; the place of the all-night kirtanas, where in great ecstasy Lord Caitanya and His dear friends had danced for hours on end, chanting the Hare Krsna mantra. And there were many other places to see and pastimes to remember. I also purchased a ticket on the Puri Express for Jagannatha Puri, twenty-four hours to the south in the state of Orissa. Here I saw—although being a Westerner I could not enter—the ancient temple of Lord Jagannatha (Krsna), nearby which Lord Caitanya had resided as a renounced celibate monk (sannyasi) for the last eighteen years of His life. I walked along the parade route, where every year for eighteen years Lord Caitanya and His devotees had danced and cried and leaped into the air, raising a tumultuous roar of "Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna" as they beheld the image of Lord Jagannatha in the centuries-old Ratha-yatra festival.
As reverently I moved from place to place, I felt transformed, convinced. I was lifted out of my petty concerns about being a white American misfit, out of my false identification that I was a twenty-nine-year-old married male from Mississippi taking a religious-oriented trip to holy places in India although suffering a touch of dysentery and more than a touch of culture shock. Of course, these things were to be reckoned with, but they were not all in all; they were not my true identity. They were temporary conditions such as all of us burden ourselves with, and they can easily hamper one's ability to understand the most important facts about life's meaning and about one's own purpose and identity.
So many people (perhaps even you as you read this magazine) let some temporary, external consideration interfere with their understanding spiritual truth: "Oh, that's from India; I'm an American." Or, "That's Hinduism; I'm a Christian." Or, "That's religion; I'm an atheist." On hearing that Lord Caitanya is the Supreme God and that we are all His eternal servants, we should feel conviction. We should feel our consciousness soar beyond the bondage of our death-bound journey and find conviction, realization: "Oh, this is truth; I've been in ignorance."
Now, when I say that I became convinced, I don't mean to imply that up until that point I had been a doubting disciple or a blind follower. But as one progresses in spiritual life, things that one may have faithfully accepted with the intellect and with the heart may suddenly take on even fuller, deeper meaning. That is called realization, the dynamics of ever-unfolding truth. In the early stages of pure devotional service, one may accept from the scriptures, from the spiritual master, and from other saintly persons: "Lord Caitanya is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and lam His eternal servant." This is true, absolutely, and even a neophyte can realize it. But as one makes further spiritual progress, that simple' truth, although never changing, blooms and grows, expanding in meaning and intensity. So when I say I became convinced, I mean that the truths that I had already accepted unfolded within me one more beautiful new petal.
Since 1971, when I had joined the Krsna consciousness movement, my readings about Lord Caitanya had convinced me profoundly and mystically of a supra-mundane quality to the pastimes of Lord Caitanya and His intimate associates. While reading the Teachings of Lord Caitanya and the Sri Caitanya-caritamrta, I had experienced on certain occasions what seemed to be religious ecstasy, and deep within my intelligence and within my very being I had felt a transformation, a profound conviction, one bolstered by the sweetest emotions of love that I had ever known. Thus, not only in my intellect, but throughout my entire being, I had already become convinced about the truth and reality of Lord Caitanya's pastimes and associates.
Now again, in the early spring of 1977, I was finding renewed conviction, strength, and hope. As I visited each holy site, sometimes reading about the Lord's dealings with an eternal associate there, sometimes hearing about them from a learned God-brother, I was transported. Each pastime became reality and each associate became an eternal, spiritual personality, imbued with pure love for Lord Caitanya and with causeless compassion for struggling souls like me, entangled life after life in this material world. I felt my ordinary, mundane vision being supplanted by a spiritual outlook: language, nationality, and other bodily designations seemed distant and unimportant. Far from feeling out of place, I felt at home, more so than I had ever felt before at any place before. I belonged—not because of my birth or education or religious beliefs, but because I was an eternal servant of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Lord Caitanya, and because through the mercy of my spiritual master, Srila Prabhupada, my own intimate relationship with Lord Caitanya was being awakened.
Thus, as this new petal of the ever-blooming lotus of transcendental realization opened within me, I found all the truths of the pastimes of Lord Caitanya and His dearmost associates confirmed, just as I had studied in Srila Prabhupada's commentaries. In other words, my realizations corroborated what I already knew to be true and what countless others before me had held to be true—the truth of the Vedic scriptures as explained through the disciplic succession of realized sages and as revealed by my own spiritual master.
Teaching from the Vedic literature, Srila Prabhupada has explained that Lord Caitanya exists eternally in His spiritual abode. That world is beyond this material world of birth and death, creation and destruction. That world is self-effulgent, whereas this material world is "artificially lit" by the sun, without which we would be engulfed in utter darkness. In the Lord's abode, everything perfectly exists in ever-youthful freshness and beauty, whereas here, perfection is a will-o'-the-wisp, and creation gives way to dissolution and decay, youth succumbs to old age, health to disease, and love turns to disenchantment or even hate. Why, one may well ask, would the Supreme Personality of Godhead leave such a place as the spiritual world and come to such a place as this?
He doesn't. Oh, He comes all right, but He brings the spiritual realm with Him. In this regard Lord Caitanya and His intimate associates are compared to a lotus flower,
The lotus, although growing within a lake or river, rests on its stem above the water. It grows in the water, but untouched. Also, the petals exude a protective, waxy coating, further insulating the flower. Similarly, because Lord Caitanya is transcendental, it is no hardship for Him to come to the material world.
The fact is, the Lord won't leave His eternal associates, and they cannot bear to be separated from Him. Therefore, out of His infinite power and intelligence, He has arranged that wherever He is and whatever He does, He is never without His loving, intimate friends. And thus He accomplishes several important things: (1) He doesn't have to leave His loved ones and go all alone to an unfriendly place. (2) His' intimate associates don't have to be deprived of His association, which for them is their very life. (3) He can accomplish many of His purposes through the agency of His fully surrendered servitors-who just happen to be on hand—thus allowing them to receive the credit and glory. (4) He is able to attract the forgetful, suffering souls of the material world to the selfless love that characterizes the spiritual world simply by displaying that love for all to see and learn about and enter into.
And who were these intimate associates? Well, there's no naming them all, but I should mention a few. Lord Caitanya's parents, Jagannatha Misra and Srimati Sacidevi, were the same two devotees who had served Him as His parents Nanda and Yasoda during His appearance as Lord Krsna some 4,500 years before. In this way Lord Caitanya was showing that He and Lord Krsna were one and the same. Lord Caitanya's spiritual master was Isvara Puri. By accepting initiation and guidance from a bona fide spiritual master, Lord Caitanya emphasized the importance of disciplic succession: If even God Himself submits before a spiritual master, who are we to do otherwise? Lord Caitanya's close friendship with Mohammedan-born Haridasa Thakura taught the world that one needn't have been born in a Hindu family to be a great devotee of Lord Krsna.
Lord Caitanya Himself wrote only eight Sanskrit verses, but He taught certain disciples, such as Srila Rupa and Sanatana Gosvamis, who wrote and compiled volumes of Vaisnava literature. Thus the Lord gave the honor of making important literary contributions to His confidential associates. Then there were the Lord's talks with Ramananda Raya, which disclosed the highest, most intimate understanding of the loving affairs of Lord Krsna and His eternal consort, Srimati Radharani. Thus, through His association with these and many, many other devotees, Lord Caitanya personally relished and also made available to everyone the ecstasy of pure Krsna consciousness.
Even today, you and I can become blessed by the auspicious, transcendental pastimes of Lord Caitanya and His associates. As the accompanying painting, which is like a window on the spiritual world, portrays, Lord Caitanya's pastimes are of the highest degree of loving exchange and devotion. Read the Lord's pastimes and teachings in the Caitanya-caritamrta, and if at all possible, visit the places in West Bengal, Orissa, and elsewhere where those pastimes were performed. If you do so under the guidance of a bona fide spiritual master, the transcendental reality of it all will awaken you to your eternal identity.
Transcendental Commentary on the Issues of the Day
by Mathuresa dasa
The U.S. Army is repainting tens of thousands of pieces of field equipment with a new, three-color camouflage design, replacing the standard, four-color design in use since the mid-seventies. Thousands of construction machines, such as road graders and earth scrapers, have been painted already, at a cost of about $300 per vehicle, and major weapons. such as the M-1 tank and the Bradley armored personnel carrier, are next in line.
Stuart A. Kilpatrick, director of the Army's Combined Arms Support Laboratory at Fort Belvoir, Virginia, says there are two primary methods of camouflage. The four-color method makes the painted object blend with its background, while the three-color method obscures the shape of an object viewed from more than three hundred yards away.
So what's the big difference? Considering that radar, heat sensors, night vision devices, and a variety of battlefield conditions can eliminate the subtle advantages of any camouflage design, why spend millions for the changeover?
Well, there are a couple of reasons. First of all, although both the three- and the four-color designs are well suited to the terrain in Central Europe. where the U.S. Army maintains a lot of its equipment, the four-color sometimes has to be changed to match seasonal environments there, whereas the three-color can remain the same year round. But more significantly, the changeover will allow the Army to use a new polyurethane paint known as CARC (Chemical Agent Resistant Coating), which resists chemical warfare agents better than the enamel paint used in the four-color scheme. With CARC, the Army will be prepared for the worst—if the enemy decides to use nerve gas, we can rest easy that the military vehicles' paint jobs won't be ruined.
But there is a catch. CARC contains hexamethyl di-isocyanate, a chemical cousin of methyl isocyanate, the deadly gas that leaked from the Union Carbide plant in Bhopal, India, last December, killing more than two thousand people and injuring some twenty thousand more. So painters using CARC have to wear respirators and airtight suits, and they must remain under constant medical surveillance. And that's only the paint. Just imagine the "medical surveillance" that will be necessary if some of the stuff that CARC's supposed to resist "leaks" into Central Europe.
Union Carbide and the U.S. Army are among the organizations at the forefront of this century's technological revolution—leaders in the development, testing, and application of the latest hardware produced by the world's best scientific minds. Their example demonstrates that, on the whole, modern science has contributed more to accelerating death than to prolonging or improving life.
Sure, methyl isocyanate helps us eliminate lots of pesky insects, but even if we write off Bhopal as a freak accident and painter asphyxiation as an occupational hazard, can we honestly believe that the widespread use of lethal chemicals won't have a detrimental effect on the environment and on our health? According to the British relief agency Oxfam, in 1982 alone pesticides caused 10,000 deaths and 375,000 poisonings in developing nations—enough to make Bhopal appear small-time. And if those statistics don't convince us that the development of deadly chemicals is more trouble than it's worth, then we might try guessing how many tons of methyl isocyanate, or of its "cousins," are now stockpiled in superpower arsenals.
The Vedic literature informs us that human life is meant for spiritual advancement, which is the proven way not only to raise the quality of our lives but to eliminate death altogether. The Bhagavad-gita states that by practicing the spiritual science of bhakti-yoga, many, many people have surpassed death and have attained eternal life. After passing away from their physical bodies, they never took birth again in this world, where death conquers everyone.
Conversely, the Srimad-Bhagavatam warns us that material, or technological, advancement is inevitably accompanied by perils that always counterbalance, and usually outweigh, its advantages. For example, material science has brought us to the point where we can prolong a man's life for a few months or years by installing a plastic heart, but that can cost millions of dollars per patient, without any guarantee of even temporary success. Material science has also brought us CARC, a gallon or two of which could most likely do in at least a dozen unwary camouflage painters in a matter of hours or minutes—and a gallon of CARC costs only thirty-five bucks.
by Tattva-vit dasa
When I was in college fifteen years ago, my father's advice that I structure my academic program in terms of a career plan seemed to me to betray the spirit of education, the spirit of understanding myself. "Making a living" and getting "a good job" were middle-class, ephemeral goals that held little attraction for me and thousands like me. But values change, and today's young people seem much more satisfied with the status quo and with filling the ranks of America's work force. A New York Times columnist reported on November 25, 1984, "If public opinion polls as well as the strong turnout of young voters to support the more conservative policies of the Reagan Administration are to be believed, there may have never been a time in the history of this country when young people were more preoccupied with the making of money." Fortunately, even young people interested in making money aren't disqualified from understanding their true identity if they accept the guidance of a bona fide spiritual master. If they neglect self-realization, however, even though they may gain the whole world, they will lose an opportunity to elevate their immortal souls.
According to the Vedic literature, people traditionally turn to religion for material gain. In many of today's affluent societies, however, people are realizing their material aims without the help of religion; therefore, religion is being neglected. People are more interested in shopping malls and office buildings than in the churches and temples their forefathers erected.
Materially motivated work, however, is not at all like working for self-realization. The happiness we appear to gain by working hard and spending our money on sense enjoyment ends at death. The end of self-realization, in contrast, is to reawaken our understanding that we are not these bodies but eternal spirit souls, the servants of Krsna, or God, the supreme proprietor. The happiness enjoyed in rendering unto God what is God's is unending, because it is spiritual bliss.
Ideally, all work should be service to Krsna. For example, in the Hare Krsna movement a devotee may work to convince people that instead of spending their money on sense gratification, they should spend it n books about Krsna or on building ample for Him. Or a devotee may work, without salary, in Krsna's temple. Devotees who hold regular jobs or who are self-employed, donate a substantial part of their salaries or profits to a temple. And those who can't be full-time devotees often become life members of the Krsna consciousness movement or donate some part of their earnings. One may be engaged in various activities, but no work should be done without some relationship to Krsna.
Ordinarily, in the struggle for existence, work simply ends in defeat. Work performed for sense enjoyment produces reactions, and any reaction, good or bad, entangles the worker in the web of karma. Thus the soul must accept another body to enjoy and suffer the good and bad reactions to work. This is something like contracting a disease. If a man contacts the smallpox virus, then under certain conditions after seven days he will develop the symptoms of the disease. And karma is just as real as smallpox. Our actions of today will produce reactions—some good, some bad—in the future. Ordinary work, therefore, binds us in the material world.
A devotee, however, rids himself of both good and bad actions (and reactions) by working only in Krsna's service, and he conquers repeated birth and death. This is the great art of doing work. It is a practical method of self-realization even for young people preoccupied with making money, who spend the largest block of their waking hours at a job, trying to get ahead. It will help them to go back home, back to Godhead.
A Passage To The Real India
by Nayanabhirama dasa
Last year sensational news of tragedy from India twice shocked the world—first, the assassination of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi followed by mass murders and mayhem, then, hardly a month later, the catastrophic poisonous gas leak at the Union Carbide plant in Bhopal. Yet, despite these ghastly events, tourism to India has increased. Even before the U.S. State Department had lifted its brief advisory against travel to India, travel agents reported a mounting demand for brochures and bookings to India.
Tragedies or no tragedies, India continues to lure the Western imagination by her exotic charms. In fact, the recent flood of movies set in India has deluged the West like a monsoon. In an article headlined "India, the Sudden Star," one New York newspaper was prompted to write, "Now, suddenly India is everywhere; if a country could be described as a pop-culture star, India would be it." The eagerly awaited "Festival of India," a twelve-million-dollar, two-year-long cultural extravaganza—the largest cultural exchange ever assembled—scheduled to open in the U.S. later this year, shows that the trend of fascination with India gives no sign of abating.
What is the reason for India's sudden popularity? Sharon Himes, a major U.S.-India tour operator, commented that the increase in travel to India reflects "a growing interest in India and its fascinating culture." Recent media exposure seems to have only further piqued curiosity about a country and life-style so different from our own.
Ken Taylor, who wrote the screenplay for the TV series The Jewel in the Crown, based on Paul Scott's Raj Quartet, attributes the series' popularity to the continuing appeal of Indian spiritual culture. "Something in the culture and philosophy of India affects the Western mind," says Taylor. "I suppose it is the opposite of the Western ethos, which is materialistic and competitive."
Yet, with India closer than ever by jumbo jet or the flick of a TV dial, are we any closer to understanding the real India than were the British imperialists who booked their long passage to India on the P & O steamers?
The search for the real India is the focus of David Lean's critically acclaimed film A Passage to India, based on E. M. Forster's novel. The story concerns one young English lady named Adela Quested, who is newly arrived in British India accompanied by her would-be mother-in-law, Mrs. Moore. Miss Quested wants to see the real India, and that sets into motion the fateful events of the story. For to see the real India she would have to get to know the natives, and in those days that simply wasn't done. The ruling Britishers, especially the memsahibs (English ladies), were not to cross the social barriers and mix with their subjects. To do so was thought to court certain disaster. The Indian hero of the story, one Dr. Aziz, in his childlike naivete, eagerly desires to please the English ladies, and he arranges for an ill-fated excursion to the Marabar Caves.
In Forster's Westernized vision of an inscrutable India, a strange, untidy place of curious misadventures, whatever could go wrong often does. And sure enough, the excursion to the Marabar Caves turns out to be a disaster. Confronted by the resounding echoes of the empty, fathomless caves, which reverberate with a kind of eerie cosmic boom or om, the memsahibs lose their mental equilibrium. Suddenly, all their mundane conceptions are shattered, and love, religion, and the affairs of men all at once seem insignificant. What the empty echoing caves represent—an impersonal conception of God, a "void" in the universe, or an existential emptiness—is deliberately left ambiguous. Although Miss Quested believes she was physically molested in the caves, what exactly happened is also left ambiguous.
Accused by the distraught Miss Quested of attempted rape, the hapless Indian doctor becomes entangled in a web of cultural prejudices and misunderstandings. The volatile case is brought to the local English court and a highly emotional trial ensues.
If Miss Quested was not physically molested, as the self-righteous Britishers believe she was, then what did happen to the poor girl that disturbed her so much as to drive her madly out of the caves? As one of the characters suggests, "India forces one to come face to face with oneself; it must be very disturbing." What must be even more disturbing is to come face to face with oneself and not find out who one actually is. Ignorant of the science of self-realization, neither Forster nor Lean offers us no clues whatsoever.
David Lean's version is not faithful to Forster's vision, nor does it offer any personal vision of its own. The only original element introduced by Lean is a bicycle excursion by Miss Quested into the upcountry, foreshadowing the trip to the caves. Heavily loaded with Freudian undertones, the nightmarish sequence shows the repressed Miss Quested riding her bike off the dusty path of Western Christian morality (symbolized by the road signpost in the shape of a cross) and then veering off into a lush, overgrown jungle, where she encounters the ruins of erotic sculptures from a temple swarming with libidinous monkeys. In this way, Lean distorts Hinduism by using it as a symbol for carnality and irrationality, a familiar Hollywood stereotype of "heathenism," quite different from what Forster had to say.
Forster's vision of Hinduism is expressed in the novel's concluding segment, which, unfortunately, Lean saw fit to excise. Forster named this section "Temple," referring not to an erotic temple but to a Krsna temple at the time of Janmastami, the annual celebration of Lord Krsna's appearance in this world. Forster saw "Temple" as a necessary complement to his novel's other two sections: "Mosque" and "Caves." The third and final part of the novel is about bhakti, the path of understanding the ultimate reality through devotion to the supreme personal Deity, Lord Krsna. This view—which happens to be the sum and substance of Bhagavad-gita—is propounded by the fourth major character of the novel, the enigmatic brahmana, Professor Narayan Godbole.
In the novel, Professor Godbole, as the English translation of his name implies, is always absorbed in singing, chanting, or meditating on his Lord Krsna. As revealed in the book (though not in the movie), Godbole is a devotee of Tukaram, the great Maharastran saint and follower of Srila Caitanya Mahaprabhu. The "Temple" segment climaxes in the ecstatic celebration of Janmastami, after which all the misunderstandings and divergences between the characters are miraculously reconciled. This transcendental ending would have been appropriate for the movie as well. Unfortunately, Lean left out the one essential element for understanding the self and God. By omitting the integral element of bhakti (devotion to Lord Krsna), the filmmaker not only fails to clarify anything but also confounds the muddle by tacking on the stock Hollywood driving off-into-the-sunset ending.
It is clear that you won't learn a great deal about the real India and its spiritual culture by watching the movies. Nevertheless, if the movie A Passage to India induces sincere seekers to delve into the real spiritual India, then it will have served some useful purpose. To find the real India, as was stated in the movie, one must meet the people. But which people? Certainly not those people seeking fame and fortune in the material world. For this there is no need for the soul to take the proverbial "passage to India."
Rather, we must search out the genuine sadhus (saintly persons) and spiritual masters to guide us in our search for the truth. This is the prescription of Lord Krsna in the Bhagavad-gita (4.34): "Just try to learn the truth by approaching a spiritual master. Inquire from him submissively and render service unto him. The self-realized souls can impart knowledge unto you because they have seen the truth." Without the help of self-realized souls who can impart the unchanged knowledge of the Vedic literature, the Vedic culture of India must always remain a puzzle. It baffled the Moghuls; it baffled the British; and now it seems to have baffled the Hollywood moguls as well.
India is the last great repository of the once universal Vedic culture, the spiritual culture that teaches that self-realization and not sense gratification is the goal of human life. It is still practiced in many parts of India, though in various, often adulterated, forms and permutations. The sincere seeker, however, need not despair of being unable to undertake a costly voyage to India. The spiritual culture of India in its pure and unadulterated form is being spread all over the world by the members of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness. The transcendental knowledge imparted in Srila Prabhupada's books is no mere holiday excursion to India, but a lifetime's liberal education in itself.
A Feast for Lord Caitanya
Five hundred years ago, a great feast and even greater
by Visakha-devi dasi
During Lord Caitanya's first twenty-four years, He played the role of a student, a teacher, and a householder. At the end of His twenty-fourth year, He entered the renounced order (sannyasa). Then, absorbed in love for Krsna, He set out on foot on a thousand-mile journey to Vrndavana, the site where Krsna enacted His childhood pastimes on earth 4,500 years before. But on the way He lovingly allowed Himself to be tricked into going to the home of His intimate associate Advaita Acarya, in Santipura, West Bengal.
To induce the Lord to come, Advaita Acarya had told Him, "You have been fasting continuously for three days in Your ecstasy of love of Krsna. I therefore invite You to My home, where I have just one palmful of rice. The vegetables I serve are always very simple. There is no luxurious cooking." But actually, Advaita Acarya's wife, Sita-devi, had cooked a huge feast of many dishes.
And what an offering it was! A mound of rice moist with ghee (clarified butter) was surrounded by one hundred pots, each one filled with a different, appetizing vegetable preparation, most of them unknown in the West—patolas, manakhacu, sukhta, and phula-badi. The feast also included a sweet preparation of coconut pulp mixed with curd and rock candy, a curry made of banana flowers, and squash boiled in milk. Three kinds of soft cakes made with mung dal, ripe bananas, and urad dal were offered, along with rice cakes in condensed milk, and many kinds of small cakes in sweet and sour sauces. There were also sweet rice and chipped rice made with milk and bananas. (Some of these dishes are featured in this month's recipes.)
Advaita Acarya offered to the Deity of Lord Krsna the feast his wife had prepared. Pleased to see the gorgeous arrangement for Krsna's pleasure, Lord Caitanya expressed His great satisfaction. Then He humbly sat down to one side, expecting to take a small portion of the offering.
But Advaita Acarya had a different idea, and taking Lord Caitanya by the hand, he seated Him before the huge offering. The Lord protested, saying, "It is not proper for a person in the renounced order to eat such a variety of food. If he does, how can he control his senses?" But Advaita Acarya would not be fooled by Lord Caitanya's pretense. He explained that since Lord Caitanya is identical with the Deity of Lord Jagannatha in Jagannatha Puri, Orissa—who receives fifty-four large offerings of food daily—the present meal was, by comparison, insignificant. "By my great good fortune," Advaita Acarya then said, "You have come to my home. Please do not juggle words. Just begin eating and do not talk."
The Lord sat down and, smiling, began to eat the prasadam. After eating half of each vegetable dish served to Him, Lord Caitanya would abandon the dish and go on to the next, and Advaita Acarya would replenish the half-empty pot. In this way, as the Lord would finish half of each preparation, Advaita Acarya would again and again replenish it, requesting the Lord to go on eating. In this way, Advaita Acarya persuaded Lord Caitanya to eat, and, by eating, Lord Caitanya fulfilled all of Advaita Acarya's desires.
When the people of Santipura heard that Lord Caitanya was staying there, they all immediately came to see Him. Being very pleased upon seeing the beauty of the Lord, they loudly began to shout the holy names of the Lord, "Hari! Han!" And, as soon as it was evening, they joined Lord Caitanya and Advaita Acarya in dancing and in congregationally chanting the holy names of God: Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. Advaita Acarya led the chanting.
We can all benefit by following the example of Advaita Acarya: make a feast for Lord Krsna and Lord Caitanya and chant the holy names of God and dance. In this way, we can convert our home into the spiritual world. The Lord does not demand all the opulent dishes that Advaita Acarya offered. But He wants our love and devotion. If we include those two ingredients, surely He will accept our humble offerings, too.
(Recipes by Yamuna-devi dasi)
Split Mung Dal Soup
(Moong Dal )
Preparation time: 1 ½ hours
2/3 cup split mung beans (moong dal), without skins
1. Sort, wash, and drain the split mung beans.
2. Place the split mung beans, water, turmeric, and a dab of ghee or vegetable oil in a heavy 3-quart saucepan, and bring to a full boil, stirring occasionally. Then reduce the flame to medium low, cover with a tight-fitting lid, and gently boil for 1 hour, or until the dal is soft and fully cooked. For pressure-cooking, combine the ingredients in a 6-quart pressure cooker, cover, and cook for 20 to 25 minutes, using 5 ½ cups of water.
3. While the dal is cooking, slowly dry-roast the coriander and cumin seeds in a heavy iron frying pan for about 8 minutes, then remove and coarsely crush with a mortar and pestle, kitchen mallet, or rolling pin.
4. Remove the dal soup from the flame, uncover, add the roasted spices and salt, and beat with a wire whisk or rotary beater until creamy smooth.
5. Heat the ghee or vegetable oil in a small saucepan over a medium flame for 1 minute. Toss in the ginger root and seeded chilies, fry until the ginger turns golden brown, and pour into the soup. Cover immediately and allow the seasonings to soak into the hot dal for 1 or 2 minutes. Sprinkle in the fresh herbs, stir, and offer to Krsna.
Rich Rice and Condensed-Milk Pudding
(Bengali Bhat Payasa)
Preparation time: 1 hour
8 cups fresh milk
1. Sort through the rice and remove any foreign matter. Wash and drain.
2. Mince 6 pistachio nuts and Set aside for garnishing. Thinly slice the remainder of the pistachio nuts lengthwise.
3. Heat the ghee or oil in a heavy 5-quart saucepan over a medium flame for approximately 1 minute. Drop in the bay leaf and drained rice and stir-fry until the rice turns translucent. Pour in the milk, add the cardamom powder, and stir.
4. Raise the flame to high. Bring the milk to a rolling boil, stirring constantly to avoid scorching. When the milk starts to boil, reduce heat slightly and stir in the sugar.
5. Continue to rapidly boil the milk for 30 minutes, stirring attentively, until the milk is reduced to half of the original volume. Then lower the flame.
6. Add the sliced almonds, pistachio nuts, and raisins and continue cooking for 5 to 10 minutes, or until the milk is reduced to a viscous liquid.
7. Remove from heat. Place the grains of camphor on a small plate. Crush them to a powder by pressing with a teaspoon. Sprinkle into the pudding and stir well. Cool to room temperature and chill if desired.
8. Garnish each serving with minced pistachio nuts. Offer to Krsna.
Stuffed, Deep-Fried Circular Pastry Cakes
Preparation time: 1 ½ hours Servings: 12
For the pastry:
1 cup unbleached white pastry flour or all-purpose flour
For the stuffing:
5 ounces cream cheese
For the syrup:
1/3 cup sugar or honey
1. Combine the flour and salt in a deep bowl. Sprinkle the oil or melted ghee over the surface of the flour and, using your fingertips, rub the ingredients together until the consistency resembles the texture of dry oatmeal. Pour in ¼ cup cold water and quickly stir to gather the ingredient into a ball. If the dough is crumbly, gradually sprinkle in more water, up to 2 ½ tablespoons, until the particles adhere into a dough. Knead on a smooth counter-top for about 10 minutes, or until the dough is silky smooth and pliable. Gather the dough into a smooth ball, drape with a damp kitchen towel, and set aside for at least 1 hour.
2. Knead all of the ingredients for the stuffing together until thoroughly blended. Divide into 12 equal portions and pat each portion into a thin patty 2 inches in diameter. Set the patties aside on a plate.
3. To make the stuffed pastries, divide the dough into 24 even-sized small pellets, rolling each piece into a smooth ball; cover them with a damp towel. One by one, pat each ball into a pattie, dip it in flour on both sides, and roll it with a rolling pin into an evenly thick, round disc 3 ¼ to 3 ½ inches in diameter. Place a portion of the stuffing in the center of the disc, leaving at least ½ inch around the edges. Dip your finger in water and moisten the entire outer edge of the circle. Place a second 3 ¼ -to 3 ½-inch piece of dough over the first. Press around the edges to seal them securely, and roll around the edge with a decorative pastry wheel, or pleat with a decorative overlapping fold, or press with fork tines. Place the finished pastry on a cookie sheet lined with waxed paper and stuff and seal the remaining pieces.
4. To prepare the syrup, combine the sugar and water in a 1-quart saucepan; boil for about 5 minutes, or until the syrup is quite sticky and thick. Keep the syrup warm over the lowest possible heat; if it begins to crystallize, add sprinkles of water. An alternative to the above: warm 1/3 cup of mild light honey.
5. Heat the ghee or oil in a wok or deep frying pan over a medium-high flame until the temperature reaches 350 or 355F on a deep-frying thermometer. Gently slip in four pastries. The temperature will quickly drop 25 degrees. Fry the pastries, allowing the temperature to rise again, until the pieces are crisp and golden brown-approximately 5 minutes per side.
6. As they brown, lift them out with a large perforated spoon and place them on absorbent paper to drain. Then fry another 4 pastries. Dip both sides of the fried pastries in the warm syrup, remove them, and allow them to drain on a cake rack. The finished pieces may be sprinkled with a few minced pistachios. Offer to Krsna.
Sense Gratification Is for the Birds
The following conversation between His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada and some devotees took place in May 1974 during a morning walk in Rome.
Srila Prabhupada: Adanta-gobhir visatam tamisram punah punas carvita-carvananam. Life after life, people are simply trying to enjoy their senses. Life after life, the same thing over and over again. The same eating, the same sleeping, the same sexual intercourse, and the same defending, either as man or as dog. Punah punas carvita-carvananam: again and again, chewing the chewed. Whether you become a demigod or a dog, in the material world everyone is given the facilities for these four things: eating, sleeping, having sexual intercourse, and defending.
Actually, if some danger were to come now, we humans might be victims, but a bird would immediately fly away. So the bird has better facility for defense. Is it not? Suppose all of a sudden a car came directly at us. We would be killed. We could not do anything, but even the smallest bird—"Hut! I'm leaving!" He can do that. Is it not? So his defensive measures are better than ours.
Similarly, if we wanted to have sex, we would have to arrange for that. Find out some mate and a suitable time and place. But the female bird is always around the male bird, at any time. Take the sparrows, or the pigeons. Have you seen it? Immediately they are ready for sex. And what does the bird do about eating? "Oh, there is some fruit." Immediately the bird can eat. And sleeping is also easy and convenient.
So these facilities—don't think that they are available only in your skyscrapers. They are available for the birds and the beasts. It is not that unless you have got a very nice apartment in the skyscraper, you cannot have all these facilities of eating, sleeping, defending, and having sex, You can have them in any material body, in any species: Visayah khalu sarvatah syat. Visayah means the facilities for material sense enjoyment. Our process is visaya chadiya se rase majiya. One has to give up this unsatisfying material enjoyment and relish transcendental bliss, the taste of spiritual enjoyment. It is enjoyment on a different platform.
But today people are so befooled by the bodily concept of life that their only enjoyment is this material, so-called enjoyment.
So the scriptures advise, "This temporary, inferior enjoyment is available in any form of material life-either as man or as bird or as beast. Why are you repeatedly going after this same unsatisfying enjoyment in all these different species of life? Punah punas carvita-carvananam: In all these different forms, again and again, you are doing the same stupid, unsatisfying thing."
But matir na krsne parato svato va: those who are befooled by material sensual enjoyment cannot become Krsna conscious, by their own endeavor or even by instruction from a spiritual master. And mitho 'bhipadyeta: these foolish people may hold many conferences and meetings to inquire, "What are the problems of life?"—but still, they cannot take to the process of Krsna consciousness.
Why? Grha-vratanam: as long as they have got this determination—"We shall be happy in this material world"—they cannot take to Krsna consciousness. Grha means "home" and also "body." Those who are trying to be happy within this material body—they cannot take to Krsna consciousness, because adanta-gobhih: their senses are so uncontrolled. Therefore these people must repeatedly undergo the ordeal of chewing the chewed. Again and again, the same sensual enjoyment: eating, sleeping, mating, and defending.
Devotee: So our task is to convince people that they can't be happy in the material world?
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. And they have already got very convincing experience. Daily they are founding so many parties, manufacturing so many means and plans and this and that, but still they are not happy. And yet they are such great fools that in spite of being repeatedly baffled, still, they are chewing what they have already chewed—the same thing all over again, in somewhat different forms.
What is the difference between the communists and capitalists? After all, both groups are simply looking after how they can make things into a better arrangement for their own sensual enjoyment. The two groups are fighting, but everyone's aim is grha-vratanam: "We shall remain within this material world and be happy here."
Devotee: The idea is, if we can get enough food and sex, we will be happy.
Srila Prabhupada: That's all. And then people become impotent. And they beg the doctor, "Give me some sex medicine." You see? Punah punas carvita-carvananam. Chewing the same old tired thing. And when they feel disgusted with sex at home: "Let us go to the prostitute. Let us go to the naked dance." They have no other ideas. So this class of men cannot take to Krsna consciousness. First of all, one must be in knowledge—"I am not anything of this material world. I am spirit soul. My happiness is in the spiritual world." Then he is a real human being and he can make spiritual advancement. So the next question is, "How can one become interested in the spirit soul or Krsna consciousness?" How? This is the question. Animals—and people like animals—cannot become interested.
naisam matis tavad urukramanghrim
The Srimad-Bhagavatam [7.5.32] says, "The consciousness of these rascals and fools cannot be turned toward the lotus feet of Lord Sri Krsna, who acts wonderfully, until they touch their heads to the lotus feet of a devotee of the Lord who is niskincana, who has nothing to gain in this material world and is simply interested in Krsna."
If you get the opportunity of touching your head to the lotus feet or even the dust of the lotus feet of such a great devotee, your spiritual advancement is possible. Otherwise, it is not. The dust of the lotus feet of a great devotee can help you.
(continued in next issue)
A look at the worldwide activities of the
ISKCON Pada-yatra Reaching Millions in India
Trivandrum, Kerala—Recently, a group of ISKCON pilgrims arrived here, seven months after leaving Dvaraka, a holy town on India's northwest coast. They are taking part in an eighteen-month, four-thousand-mile pada-yatra, or "walking festival," Laksmi, a gaily painted elephant, leads the procession of chanters, who number anywhere from about thirty to one hundred. The procession is followed by three bullock carts and a camel cart; The no-frills caravan is reminiscent of a time five centuries ago, when Lord Caitanya journeyed through the towns and villages of South India.
ISKCON inaugurated the pada-yatra to celebrate the five-hundredth anniversary of the appearance of Lord Caitanya, who is Krsna Himself appearing in the role of His own devotee to teach the congregational chanting of the Hare Krsna mantra as the prime means of God realization in this age. Lord Caitanya predicted that the congregational chanting would spread to every town and village in the world, and by traveling on foot through South India, He demonstrated how this prediction could be fulfilled. ISKCON pilgrims, walking through ten major cities, fifty-five towns, and more than three hundred villages formerly visited by Lord Caitanya, are following in the Lord's footsteps. The pilgrimage will culminate in Mayapur, West Bengal, the birthplace of Lord Caitanya, on His five-hundredth anniversary next spring.
When the pada-yatra entered Sanand, Gujarat, the people were overjoyed because the town had been blessed for five days in 1976 by the presence of ISKCON's founder and spiritual master, His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. His impact on the townspeople had been so great that upon seeing the murti (statue) of Srila Prabhupada, they became emotional. By taking Srila Prabhupada's murti on the pada-yatra, the devotees are executing his unfulfilled desire, expressed in his last days, to travel all over India. The principal cart is constructed as an altar, with Srila Prabhupada's murti seated before Deities of Lord Caitanya and Lord Nityananda.
Several million people are having their first contact with ISKCON as a result of this pada-yatra. They are seeing the Deities, receiving food that has been offered to Krsna, obtaining transcendental literature, joining the pilgrimage briefly, and attending the festivals ISKCON holds nightly.
An advance party arranges these evening festivals in a new location each day, which the pada-yatra reaches by walking approximately eleven miles, beginning at sunrise to beat the heat. At one evening festival in the remote district of Dang, the only district in India without a movie theater, villagers saw the first movie of their lives: a film biography of Srila Prabhupada. Many people are amazed to learn that Lord Caitanya visited their town or village, and they are impressed to see Western devotees of Krsna marching in a four-thousand mile pilgrimage. The local people chant and dance enthusiastically and even take vows to chant the Hare Krsna mantra on beads every day.
Mayors, municipal officers, and religious leaders are welcoming the pada-yatra. In Palej, Gujarat, the Moslem mayor invited the pada-yatra pilgrims to chant Hare Krsna in the mosque. The devotees gladly complied and presented the mayor with a copy of Srila Prabhupada's Bhagavad-gita As It Is.
Last year in New Delhi, Dr. Karan Singh, chairman of India's Sri Caitanya Five-Hundredth Anniversary Committee, after presenting a list of proposed celebration programs, admitted that ISKCON's pada-yatra was the most ambitious program of all.
Temple Tour Acquaints Bobbies with ISKCON
London—To improve community relations and to promote understanding of the Hare Krsna movement here, student policemen of the Royal Police Academy in certain districts are required to spend an afternoon at local ISKCON temples after completing their training.
Groups of police trainees regularly tour Bhaktivedanta Manor and the Soho Street temple. More than eight hundred policemen have become acquainted with Krsna consciousness through this program.
The tour at Bhaktivedanta Manor begins with a walk around the grounds and a visit to the gurukula, an elementary school. In-side the Manor, the trainees tour Srila Prabhupada's quarters (now a museum), and they hear about the Vedic literature and the Vedic culture that Srila Prabhupada introduced to the West.
After the tour, the guests view a film entitled The World of Hare Krishna. A delicious dinner of krsna-prasadam (vegetarian food offered to Krsna) tops off the afternoon visit.
The pada-yatra procession is rolling through more than three hundred villages like the one above, reminding South Indians of Lord Caitanya's travels in these same places some twenty generations ago.
Heroism is an essential feature of human nature.
by Kundali dasa
Every so often I come across an article lamenting the shortage of real heroes today. The latest was an amusing piece in Newsweek by Ralph Schoenstein, who describes a visit to his daughter's third-grade class. He asked the twenty students of eight and nine to name the three greatest people they had heard about:
"'Michael Jackson, Brooke Shields, and Boy George,' said a small blond girl, giving me one from all three sexes.
"'Michael Jackson, Spider-Man, and God,' a boy then said, naming a new holy trinity."
Other favorites were Batman, Ronald Reagan, and Mr. T, "a hero who likes to move people by saying, 'Sucker, I'll break your face.'" Schoenstein was not impressed. His heroes are more traditional types—Winston Churchill, Marie Curie, Abraham Lincoln, and Albert Einstein. Still, he had anticipated hearing from the children the names he did. What surprised him were the eight children who said "Me," naming themselves as their own heroes. Schoenstein disapproved. He concluded:
"It's sad to see the faces on Mount Rushmore replaced by rock stars, brawlers, and cartoons, but it's sadder still to see Mount Rushmore replaced by a mirror."
Many people would agree with Schoenstein. They would be more disappointed by the eight children who said "Me" than by the ones who named a cross-dresser, a cartoon wall-climber, and a tough-talking brawler as their heroes. As for myself, I wholeheartedly agree with Schoenstein about the shortage of heroes, but I disagree about those eight children. Had I been in that classroom, I would have advised them to be very serious about being heroes. I would have encouraged them to become the best of all possible heroes.
Human Nature and the Heroic
No popular writer in recent times has done a more brilliant job explaining the psychology of heroism than the late Ernest Becker. In The Denial of Death, he presents vigorous arguments and clear, scholarly evidence to support his conviction that personal heroism is a universal and essential feature of human nature. Critics praised The Denial of Death as a "rare masterpiece," and the book won Becker the 1974 Pulitzer Prize for nonfiction. Finding many of Becker's main ideas in agreement with the philosophy of Krsna consciousness, I took the critical acclaim his book had received as an indirect appreciation of the Krsna consciousness movement. His analysis of heroism explains why I disagree with Schoenstein.
According to Becker's analysis, heroism is a "vital truth" that has somehow not received the attention it deserves. Yet thinkers always knew it was important. Around the turn of the century, William James noted, "Mankind's common instinct for reality . . . has always held the world to be a theatre for heroism." But how deeply rooted, how central, the urge to heroism is in human nature, no one had fully appreciated. Now, says Becker, "we have achieved the remarkable feat of exposing that reality in a scientific way." That urge is the very reason people still thrill to the works of Emerson and Nietzsche: "We like to be reminded that our central calling, our main task on this planet, is the heroic."
Yet surprisingly, we repress our urge to heroism. Becker writes:
We disguise our struggle by piling up figures in a bankbook to reflect privately our sense of heroic worth. Or by having only a better home in the neighborhood, a bigger car, brighter children. But underneath throbs the ache for cosmic specialness no matter how we mask it in concerns of smaller scope.
But if everyone feels the pang of desire for cosmic specialness, the urge to heroism must be natural. Why, then, do we try to repress it? Why are we intimidated or shocked, as Schoenstein was, when someone honestly admits his heroic urge?
Becker sees a very good reason for this. Imagine what would happen if every man, woman, and child came forward and in unison admitted their urge to heroism, shrilly demanding their due—a primary sense of value—from society. How could any society meet such an honest demand? If suddenly people began clamoring to claim their sense of cosmic specialness, it would wreak havoc everywhere. It would, in Becker's words, "release such pent-up force as to be devastating to societies as they now are."
We repress our urge to heroism, therefore, to avoid a social catastrophe. We feign indifference toward heroism while within we long for and quietly work at it. The main function of a cultural system, says Becker, is to provide us with an orderly vehicle for realizing our urge to heroism. Becker describes with precision the workings of a cultural system.
The fact is that this is what society is and always has been: a symbolic action system, a structure of statuses and roles, customs and rules of behavior, designed to serve as a vehicle for earthly heroism. Each script is somewhat unique, each culture has a different hero system. What anthropologists call "cultural relativity" is thus really the relativity of hero-systems the world over, . . . from the "high" heroism of a Churchill, a Mao, or a Buddha, to the "low" heroism of the coal miner, the peasant, the simple priest; the plain everyday, earthy heroism wrought by gnarled hands guiding a family through hunger and disease."
From here on Becker develops his arguments to show that our urge to heroism is a manifestation of an innate desire to achieve immortality, to deny death, and, ultimately, to become God. How else can a person justify his bid to become the object of primary value in the cosmic scheme? "He would have to become as God," replies Becker. Then he queries, "What right do you have to play God?"
In a nutshell, Becker thinks it a foolhardy illusion for us to try to become God. He considers the living being too insignificant, too "fragmentary," to fake God's place.
Maximum Cosmic Specialness
Becker's conclusion here agrees with the Krsna conscious understanding of why the pure soul leaves the spiritual world and comes to the material world in the first place: to usurp the position of God, to try to be the biggest hero. Knowing that motive, however, is only a partial understanding of our urge to heroism. On the deepest spiritual level, our urge to heroism stems from the fact that we are, in a limited sense, "as God."
Constitutionally, each soul is part and parcel of God, the Supreme Soul, who is the epitome of cosmic specialness. Being small "samples" of the Supreme, we naturally experience, to a small degree, a desire for cosmic specialness, because the qualities of the whole are found, in lesser degree, in its parts. (Although unaware of this important ontological fact, Becker, as we shall see, still arrives at a correct conclusion.) A part is never equal to the whole; rather, experience shows that the part serves the whole. This means that the only way we can realize our fullest heroic potential is through our natural relation of service to God.
But how do we realize our fullest heroic potential in relationship to God? Becker's answer is in complete consonance with Krsna consciousness: "In the game of life and death no one stands taller than any other, unless it be a true saint."
Consider the logic of this conclusion. After all, if we cannot fulfill our urge to heroism, even up to the extent of trying to become God, then the logical thing would be to become a hero on God's behalf, by excelling in His service. This intimate and confidential relationship with God, the position of the saint, is described in the Srimad-Bhagavatam (9.4.68). The Lord says, "Saints are always within the core of My heart, and I am always in their hearts. My devotees do not know anything else but Me, and I do not know anyone else but them." This is maximum cosmic specialness for the minute soul.
The Knight of Faith
To symbolize the heroic stature of a true saint, Becker borrowed the term "knight of faith" from the Danish theologian Soren Kierkegaard. It conveys the image of an ideal knight, one who is pure-hearted, unselfish, courageous, merciful, tolerant, chivalrous, and dedicated to truth and goodness in the struggle against ignorance and evil—all traits we expect to find in a saintly person. Says Becker:
This figure is the man who lives in faith, who has given over the meaning of life to His Creator, and who lives centered on the energies of his Maker. He accepts whatever happens in this visible dimension without complaint, lives his life as a duty, faces his death without a qualm, . . . no task is too frightening to be beyond his courage. The great strength of such an ideal is that it allows one to be open, generous, courageous, to touch others' lives and to enrich them and to open them in turn. As the knight of faith has no fear-of-life-and-death trip to lay on to others, he does not cause them to shrink back upon themselves, he does not coerce or manipulate them.
The knight of faith is the most awe-inspiring and challenging of ideals. Here is a hero-model fit only for those rare persons who recognize their urge to heroism and who have resolved to go all the way in fulfilling it. Success on this path, however, requires an extraordinary measure of faith—faith only a hero can muster. How else can a person surrender to the will of another, especially of one who is invisible?
Even Kierkegaard, Becker points out, could not muster that much faith. He understood life's central challenge, but he couldn't meet it. He couldn't make "the leap of faith" he considered requisite—for all men who would commune with transcendent God. Nor could Becker meet the challenge. This indicates that to answer the call to full heroism, intellectual understanding is not enough.
How, then, does one develop the necessary faith? "Sainthood," wrote Becker, "is a matter of grace and not of human effort." Yet he did not explain how faith is to be achieved. But Kierkegaard did. In Fear and Trembling he indicated that the aspiring knight of faith should follow the example and instruction of an already perfected knight.
I candidly admit that in my practice I have not found any reliable example of the knight of faith. . . . But if I knew where there was such a knight of faith, I would make a pilgrimage to him on foot, for his prodigy interest me absolutely. I would not let go of him for an instant . . . I would regard myself as secured for life, and would divide my time between looking at him and practicing the exercises myself.
The idea Kierkegaard expresses here is a fundamental principle of Krsna consciousness, that one must accept a qualified spiritual master and through him receive the grace necessary for sainthood. Such persons are very, very rare. Kierkegaard confessed that he searched years for one, but to no avail. A spiritual master must be a true hero, a knight of faith who has been trained by his own spiritual master and who is now ready to train others. By precept and by example, he must train his disciple, the would-be knight of faith, to develop full faith in God.
The knight of faith is a hero. His life is an adventurous odyssey, as heroically he strives to overcome all obstacles on the spiritual path. He learns to control his senses, to subdue his passions, to relinquish material attachments, to enlighten others about spiritual life, and to transcend fear of death and death itself. Finally, by God's grace, he enters the spiritual world, never to return to this place of birth and death. Krsna sums up this ultimate victory of the knight of faith in the Bhagavad-gita (8.15): "After attaining Me, the great souls, who are yogis in devotion, never return to this temporary world, which is full of miseries, because they have attained the highest perfection."
Yet those who are ignorant of the ideal heroism of the knight of faith often look upon him with disfavor. Sometimes they hold that saintly life is irrelevant to society and appeals only to the inept and the weak-hearted. In fact, however, the calling to be a knight of faith is for the strongest, most heroic individuals. This Becker appreciated despite his inability to answer the call: "To renounce the world and oneself, to lay the meaning of it to the powers of creation, is the hardest thing for man to achieve—and so it is fitting that this should fall to the strongest personality type.
Anything less is less than full development, even if it seems like weakness and compromise to the best thinkers."
The Crisis of Society
In the knight of faith, we have the highest expression of the urge to heroism and cosmic specialness. Now, what society, what cultural hero-system, is best suited for creating knights of faith?
Alas, here Becker's brilliance fades. For all his insightful analysis of the psychology of heroism, he could not answer this all-important question. He acknowledged that many religions describe an ideal akin to the knight of faith, but he could not recommend any of them. Since, as he saw things, a religion and the culture surrounding it are inseparable, if for some reason the culture is discredited, "then the church supporting that culture automatically discredits itself." And Becker discredited Western culture with its emphasis on "the acquisition and display of consumer goods, the piling up of money and privileges," as ignoble, debasing heroics. Consequently, he found religion "no longer valid as a hero system." The crisis of society, therefore, is that a wide breach exists between culture at large and the ideal of saintly heroics set by the various religions.
In terms of Becker's prize-winning thesis that cultural systems are really hero-systems and that the ultimate hero is the saint, the solution to the crisis of society is a social system wherein cultural and saintly heroics are integrated into one smooth synthesis. Becker knew of no current society wherein such a religiocultural synthesis occurred. The Vedic culture of ancient India, however, perfectly fulfills the requirements of a true hero-system.
The Vedic culture—technically called the varnasrama system—by scientifically integrating religious and cultural heroics, aims at making its participants into knights of faith. In Vedic society this is achieved largely by the members individually working on developing saintly character while simultaneously holding their particular social and occupational positions. Saintly character is revered as the topmost heroic achievement and is the common ideal sought by all citizens. In Vedic society, no one has to compete for this topmost heroism, because it depends not on the amassing of money and privileges but on a change of heart.
This is in stark contrast to other cultural systems, where one must invariably earn his sense of heroic worth by subduing or vanquishing his competitors. In the Vedic system, the more a person can help others in the pursuit of sainthood, the more he is successful in his endeavor to be a knight of faith. This paramount concern for others and the offer of topmost heroism to all are the true excellence of Vedic culture. As Becker said, "The great strength of such an ideal is that it allows one . . . to touch others' lives and to enrich them and to open them in turn."
Up until about ten centuries ago in India, the Vedic culture existed in an unadulterated state. The system began to disintegrate after India was repeatedly invaded by heroes of other cultures, feverish to earn their sense of cosmic specialness by lording it over others. In recent times, therefore, no one has seen the Vedic system fully operative. What has been perjoratively labeled "the caste system" is but the vestiges of the once glorious Vedic culture of India. Today, it is all but lost. In fact, hardly anyone even has a true conception of Vedic culture. The Krsna consciousness movement, however, is trying to restore it, the only culture designed to produce knights of faith, and even to propagate it all over the world.
The Krsna consciousness movement is based on the ideals of Vedic culture. Even before Becker wrote The Denial of Death, His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, the founder and spiritual master of the Krsna consciousness movement, described Krsna consciousness as "a cultural presentation for the respiritualization of society," in his introduction to the Srimad-Bhagavatam.
Only because of his misconception about what a real hero is, Schoenstein was dismayed by the eight children who named themselves as heroes. He was alarmed to think that young children could be so self-centered. He couldn't see their potential for becoming the best 6f all possible heroes.
Had I been there, I would have told them about the Vedic culture and encouraged them to take to Krsna consciousness and become knights of faith. Nor would Schoenstein need to worry about Mount Rushmore being replaced by a mirror. A knight of faith is humble; he never seeks profit, adoration, or distinction for himself. His only interest is to be engaged in the devotional service of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. He looks upon his fellow knights as the real heroes and aspires to become their menial servant. How about you, would you like to be a real hero?
The sacred Ganges, glorified for her
by Satyaraja dasa and Jagatguru Swami
Our Pan Am jet arrived in New Delhi late one mid-September night, and by 12:15 A.M. our party of three had passed through the final immigration and customs formalities. We secured a rented car and began to make our way through the darkened streets, until soon we were outside the city and heading north. Our destination was Hardwar and Rishikesh, some 120 miles away. For months we had anticipated seeing these two holy cities, situated in the picturesque foothills of the Himalayas. Back in New York it had seemed like a distant dream. Now, we knew the dream would soon become a reality.
Srila Prabhupada, the founder and spiritual master of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, describes the Himalayas as a centuries-old refuge for great yogis and ascetics aspiring to realize the Absolute Truth. The Himalayas are also famous as the source of the sacred Ganges. And it was this river, glorified for its intimate connection with the manifest pastimes of Lord Krsna, that had inspired our pilgrimage. We had come to visit the source of the glorious Ganges.
We arrived in Hardwar before dawn and glimpsed in the moonlight the swift-flowing river. Drawing from the western Himalayas and the northern slopes of the Vindhya range, the Ganges flows eastward, until, near Allahabad, it is joined by another sacred river, the Yamuna. The Ganges the continues eastward until it reaches the Bay of Bengal, a total distance of more than fifteen hundred miles.
Perhaps the most extraordinary thing about the Ganges is her purity. Even today, when she is exposed to a tremendous amount of chemical waste as well as other pollutants, she remains pure, and millions of pilgrims come to bathe in and drink her waters. Dr. John Howard Northrup, a co-winner of the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1946, has said, "We know the Ganges is highly contaminated. Yet Indians drink out of it, swim in it, and are apparently not affected . . . . Perhaps bacteriophage [a bacteria-destroying virus normally present in sewage] renders the river sterile." Whatever the reason, the Ganges is pure. And in Hardwar viewing the Ganges, we had little doubt of this. In fact, Hardwar was itself a gateway into this purity, and any perceptive pilgrim can sense it. "Hardwar" is a common spelling and pronunciation of the Sanskrit hari-dvara. Hari is a name for God, and dvara means "door" or "gate." Thus the holy city of Hardwar is celebrated as the gateway to God.
Deciding to rest for an hour or so, until sunrise, we spread out our sleeping bags. We talked excitedly about the adventure the coming day would hold, and as the moments passed, we realized that we would not be able to sleep. Thus, after an hour and a half, just as the sun began to climb over the Himalayan foothills, we rolled up our bags and started our day. Placing three drops of Ganges water on our heads—a reverential gesture—we entered the water to take our morning bath. This was at Harki Puri, a famous bathing ghata visited by millions of pilgrims each year.
According to Vedic tradition, one who bathes in the Ganges is freed from the reactions of all his past sins and also becomes eligible for liberation from birth and death. Of course, if after bathing one returns to sinful life, the purification loses its meaning. One becomes like the elephant who bathes and then returns to the shore and spreads mud all over his body.
Real liberation means to become free not only from the reactions of past sins but also from the desire to commit further sins. This is clearly taught in the Vedic literature, especially in the commentaries by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. Thus, as Srila Prabhupada's disciples, we were aware of the pitfalls, and we resolved to bathe in the Ganges with proper respect. We also resolved not to dirty ourselves again, but to be pure by strictly adhering to our vows of changing the Hare Krsna mantra on our beads sixteen rounds a day (One round is 108 repetitions of the Hare Krsna mantra) and abstaining from meat-eating, illicit sex, intoxication, and gambling.
From Hardwar we drove fifteen miles along the Ganges to Rishikesh, the location of numerous schools and asramas. Thousands of years ago, yogis and rsis would migrate here as well. We stopped at a spot close to the river and the Laxman Jula Cable Bridge. As we sat on the rough, rocky riverbank, we looked out at the many granite boulders that jutted out of the waters. Feeling inspired by the auspicious setting and the awesome Himalayas looming in the distance, we unpacked our beads and began to chant—Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare / Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
As we sat absorbed in our chanting, we noticed two men who appeared to be Westerners crossing the Ganges via the cable bridge. The young men, upon arrival, sat on the large rocks, a few hundred feet away from us. Sitting crosslegged, they began to meditate, their eyes tightly shut. After barely ten minutes they broke their meditation and began smoking, revealing their meditation to be a farce. They both began carrying on like typical tourists, oblivious of the sacred place of pilgrimage. This reminded us that the full benefit of any spiritual endeavor, such as visiting the source of the Ganges, is to be had only under the direction of a bona fide spiritual master. Our two friends simply did not know better.
Actually the meditation practiced by the sages of antiquity is not possible today. Even if one retreats to the Himalayas, one's old habits—like smoking—will return. Therefore, the Vedas describe the present age, Kali-yuga, as one in which silent meditation is impossible. To perfect the techniques of yogic meditation traditionally took hundreds if not thousands of years, in an age in which such a long duration of life was possible. Thus, for this age the Vedic literature recommends mantra meditation, chanting aloud the names of God. Today, the real yogis chant Hare Krsna.
After completing our vow of chanting sixteen rounds on our beads, we proceeded toward our destination: Gomukh, the source of the Ganges. There, at fourteen thousand feet, the Ganges emerges from beneath the Bhagirath glacier.
The journey, first by car and then by foot, was to take four days-barring any trouble. But on our first day we ran into trouble. The road had been washed out by a tributary of the Ganges, and our car could go no further. So with only our camera equipment and light shoulder bags containing the bare necessities, we continued on foot.
Soon we came to a swift mountain stream. On the other side, we boarded a bus that took us to the high-country town of Uttar Kashi, where we spent the night. Early the next morning we caught the bus for the town of Lanka, sixty miles away. Our progress was slow because of the treacherous mountain roads, and our journey took more than seven hours. The frustrations of the arduous trip were counterbalanced, however, by occasional glimpses of snowy Himalayan peaks in the distance.
After spending the night in Lanka, we proceeded on foot to Gangotri—the end of the line for most pilgrims. Here, at the base of this magnificent glacier valley, the Ganges surged forward, plunging forty feet into a deep and narrow ravine. The silvery Ganges water was cold and clear, and as we tasted it Lord Krsna's words came to us: "I am the taste of water."
Taking the help of a local guide, we began the last eleven miles of our upward pilgrimage, from Gangotri at ten thousand feet to Gomukh at fourteen thousand feet. As we proceeded, we noted frost on the ground and a light snowfall on the surrounding peaks. Keeping a brisk step, we hiked up the winding path, higher and higher. Evening came, and we camped for the night.
The next morning, with only three miles remaining, we set out for Gomukh. When we arrived, we saw that the Ganges appeared to be coming out from under a very large stone cliff. But upon closer inspection we realized this was not a stone cliff at all, but a gigantic wall of solid ice. Behind the massive glacier towered the Bhagirath peak, a temple spire crowning the sacred Ganges. This holy spot is as far as one can go in tracing the origin of the sacred river. We felt fortunate to be there.
As dutiful pilgrims, we decided to pay homage by taking our midday bath in the icy waters. This was as much an austerity as reaching the place, but we ecstatically chanted "Hare Krsna" and took our-brrr-bath. It was great fun and spiritually purifying as well.
After bathing, we discussed the descriptions of the origin of the Ganges presented in the Vedic literature. Although Gomukh is the origin of the Ganges here on earth, it is said that the Ganges actually originates in the heavenly planets. King Bhagiratha, by his prayers, brought the Ganges to our planet millennia ago. And it was Vamanadeva, an incarnation of Lord Krsna, who brought water from the spiritual world to the material to create the sacred Ganges. As we discussed all this, we realized how skeptical many Westerners would be. But we weren't about to let someone else's limited, materialistic vision influence our appreciation of the Lord's divine pastimes. The Supreme Personality of Godhead can do anything, no matter how difficult it may seem to mundane eyes. We were there, and we could feel the spiritual energy.
For the devotee of the Lord, the descent of the Ganges is not a fanciful story; it is fact. All too often mundane scholars make the mistake of relegating transcendental phenomena to the realm of mythology or legend. Trying to accommodate the unlimited within their limited scope, they ridicule Vedic stories as "impossible" or "fantastic." Well, the descent of the Ganges is fantastic and, by mundane standards, impossible. But is a transcendental phenomenon to be judged by mundane standards? We shouldn't try to make God fit within our limited experience and understanding. Indeed, He is always beyond these things. Without His being able to appear in various incarnations and perform superhuman activities, there is no meaning to the words "Supreme Lord." He is the source of all "fantastic" things, like the Ganges. And if one doesn't believe it, let him go to the Himalayas, to Gomukh, and see for himself.
The Descent of the Ganges
A Historical Account from the Srimad-Bhagavatam
The ancient Vedic literature of India informs us that there are three planetary systems in this universe: the upper, or heavenly, planets; the middle planets, including Earth; and the lower, or hellish, planets. The entire universe is enclosed in an immense shell, which is millions of miles thick. Beyond this shell lies the spiritual world and the spiritual waters of the Karana Ocean.
The Srimad-Bhagavatam tells how once, long ago, a king name Bali Maharaja conquered all three planetary systems. Ousting the demigods the Supreme Personality of Godhead Krsna's deputed managers of universal affairs from their heavenly domains, he installed himself as the king of heaven. Aditi, thc mother of the demigods, aggrieved at her sons' defeat, fasted and prayed to Lord Krsna for twelve consecutive days. Pleased with Aditi, the Lord agreed to reinstate the demigods by incarnating as Vamanadeva, a dwarf brahmana mendicant.
Lord Vamanadeva, appearing as the ideal brahmana (saintly priest), approached Bali Maharaja and begged him for a mere three paces of land. When Bali agreed, Vamanadeva covered the entire universe with two steps, thus reclaiming the demigods' lost property. With His third step, Vamanadeva kicked a hole in the universal shell with His toe, causing a few drops of Karana water to leak into the universe. This water became the Ganges river, which is thus considered sacred and purifying, both because it comes from the spiritual world and because it touched the toe of Lord Vamanadeva.
At first the Ganges flowed only in the heavenly planets. Then a great earthly king named Bhagiratha, who was a devotee of Lord Visnu, desiring to have the Ganges purify the earth, prayed for the river to descend. The Ganges personified appeared before King Bhagiratha and agreed to fulfill his desire. But she had a reservation.
"When I fall from the sky to the surface of the planet earth," she explained, "the water will certainly be very forceful. Who will sustain that force? If I am not sustained, I shall pierce the surface of the earth, and then I shall glide down to the hellish planets."
Mother Ganges was afraid that in falling from the heavenly planets her waters would carve a hole through the earth and she would thus descend into hell. She therefore asked King Bhagiratha to find someone who was willing and able to break her fall.
To satisfy mother Ganges, King Bhagiratha prayed to Lord Siva, who is a powerful incarnation and the greatest devotee of Lord Visnu. When the king asked the powerful Lord Siva to catch the falling Ganges water on his head, Lord Siva agreed to the request, saying simply. "Let it be so."
Since that time, Lord Siva has been sustaining mother Ganges on his head. and the waters of the sacred river have been flowing on the earth, purifying all those who come in contact with them. The Himalayan mountain and glacier from which the Ganges flows are still named after King Bhagiratha. According to the Vedic literature, anyone who bathes in the Ganges is cleansed of all material contamination and becomes eligible to be liberated and return to the eternal spiritual world, where the Ganges originates.
People outside spiritual life sometimes criticize Lord Krsna's devotees and other spiritual aspirants for having renounced the material world. Spiritualists, the critics say, have abandoned loving relationships and therefore suffer emotional disturbances. For example, Bertrand Russell wrote of "gloomy saints who abstained from all pleasure of sense ... denying themselves meat and wine and the society of women . . . [and in whom] dark terror and misfortunes in the life to come reached their full development." And as the parent of a devotee of Krsna once expressed, "[The devotees] act as if parents don't exist. It's as if the love and care we showed our son mean nothing to him."
From the Krsna conscious viewpoint, these attitudes are misguided. The religious and philosophical practice of Krsna consciousness not only allows for love but is constituted of nothing but love. In fact, by practicing Krsna consciousness, one gradually comes to realize that supreme love which permeates all beings and objects throughout the universe.
In Sanskrit, Krsna consciousness is called bhakti-yoga, "the yoga of love." Through bhakti-yoga, one comes to realize that love of Krsna, or God, includes within it love for all created beings. Srila Prabhupada explains this point in his Preface to The Nectar of Devotion, a summary study of Srila Rupa Gosvami's sixteenth-century devotional classic Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu:
In the primary stage a child loves his parents, then his brothers and Sisters, and as he daily grows up he begins to love his family, society, community, country, nation, or even the whole human society. But the loving propensity is not satisfied even by loving all human society; that loving propensity remains imperfectly fulfilled until we know who is the supreme beloved. Our love can be fully satisfied only when it is reposed in Krsna . . .
The Nectar of Devotion teaches us the science of loving every one of the living entities perfectly by the easy and sublime method of loving Krsna.
Since love of God includes love for all living entities, how have some people come to feel that spiritual life does not accommodate love? The confusion has arisen because they have mistaken lust for love. All major world religions distinguish between lust and love, and in the Sri Caitanya-caritamrta (another sixteenth-century devotional classic), Srila Krsnadasa Kaviraja describes the distinction as follows: "Lust and love have different characteristics, just as iron and gold have different natures. The desire to gratify one's own senses is kama [lust], but the desire to please the senses of Lord Krsna is prema [love]."
What we usually consider love, then, is actually an affair of personal sense enjoyment pursued by someone who takes his material body to be himself. Unaware that he is not his body but rather the spirit soul inside the body, he tries to discover love in either the body itself or in a vague, theoretical combination of body and soul. In this way he cheats himself and others by losing sight of the real object of love—Krsna—and his relationships become those of lust alone.
Such is the case not only for illicit sexual encounters but for legally or religiously sanctioned sexual relationships as well. Regardless of where or how sense gratification takes place—whether in the name of personal comfort or public welfare, altruism or nationalism, religion or morality, or even in the name of liberation from material bondage—the root of all sense gratification is lust alone.
But we hold our bodies dear only because the living principle, the soul is within them. And the soul is dear to us only because of its intrinsic relationship with God, the Supreme Soul. Real love, therefore, is the act of giving ecstatic pleasure to the supremely worthy object of love, Krsna. Whatever else passes for love in this world—whether for one's master, friend, child, or partner—is but a pale reflection of the original love for God lying dormant in all of us and covered by our ignorance. Even the most selfless kind of love in this material world—that of a mother for her children—disappears in time as the children grow up and the mother grows old and dies. But spiritual love is eternally fresh and blissful. When we love God as our friend, lover, or master, we are never cheated.
Real love begins within spiritual life, and spiritual life contains the highest standard of love in all relationships, including those of the family. In fact, true family life begins only when the husband and wife share mutual God consciousness. By performing their family duties in the spirit of service to Krsna, devotees renounce the lustful materialistic side of their relationships while allowing that part which is sanctified and true to blossom fully. Thus the loving relationships between mother and child or husband and wife become perfect when based on love of Krsna. And if a family lacks Krsna consciousness, then alienation between family members, child abuse, divorce, and other problems are inevitable.
Krsna is the supreme father, and He extends His love to all living creatures, regardless of their karma or bodily situation. The devotee, through practical, realized knowledge of his eternal identity as the servant of Krsna, sees the spiritual equality of all Krsna's creatures and loves them as His sons and daughters. Thus the devotee becomes situated in the consciousness of the universal yet personal family of all living beings. Out of this higher, spiritual love, the devotee thus spares the lives of the birds and the beasts who, like him, are children of God's creation.
Yet we often meet those who acknowledge the existence of God and even profess love for Him while at the same time claiming to "love" the taste of animal flesh. They will sometimes even invent theologies in which God supposedly forgives their lust provided they express "love" for Him. In truth, however, it is simply a demoniac perversion to call by the name "love" that by which God's creatures suffer extreme pain and violent death so someone can gratify his tongue. And the fact is that after our present material bodies die, we must transmigrate into another body according to what we actually love. This is the law of karma, which is God's law, and which is based on His love for us. As St. Bernard of Clairvaus wrote in his Love of God, "[Love] is the very substance of the Godhead; and my assertion is neither novel nor extraordinary, since St. John says, 'God is love' (John 4:8).... Love is the eternal law whereby the universe was created and is ruled . . . and nothing is left outside the realm of [that] law."
So, if we don't love God, we must love something less. Therefore everyone should take at least the first steps toward developing his love for God. The ultimate goal of life should not be left in the hands of a few rare saints.—SDG